Situated in the Colorado plains and an easy drive south along I-25 from Denver and Colorado Springs, Pueblo makes for a terrific mini-vacation. This former cowboy, steel, and railroad town now offers visitors a mix of history and rich culture. An extra bonus: Pueblo’s close proximity to the Sangre de Cristo mountains and outdoor recreation opportunities. Here are a few of our favorite ways to spend a long weekend in Pueblo.
Things To Do In Pueblo
There’s truly something for everyone who visits Pueblo to see, do, and experience. The city is a fascinating mix of industrial and railroad history, with a clear commitment to the arts sprinkled in. Its charming brick downtown and Riverwalk are the perfect places to explore, with museums and amenities throughout.
Stroll Union Avenue
To get your bearings, head straight to Union Avenue. This is the beating heart of historic Pueblo, with many of the district’s brick buildings dating back more than 100 years. Union Avenue has always been a commercial center, and today is crammed with shops, boutiques, and cafes. It’s a great spot to get an initial feel for Pueblo’s vibe, get your steps in, and perhaps do a little shopping. Don’t miss the beautiful sandstone and brick Union Avenue Depot, at one time the hub for five railroads, now used as a spectacular events space.
Learn The History
Just a couple of blocks off Union, history buffs will want to head to the Pueblo Heritage Museum. Here you’ll be introduced to the Native Americans who first made this place home and learn how Pueblo later became a hub for workers and immigrants. You’ll see artifacts and archives documenting the flood of 1921 that forever changed Pueblo and view authentic horseback saddles crafted when the town was known as the saddle-making capital of the world. Also worth checking out, the El Pueblo History Museum includes the archeological excavation site of the town’s original trading post, along with a re-created version of the structure.
Here, you’ll Pueblo, located near the confluence of the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek, built up around a trading post fort first established in the area in 1842. The area boomed after iron ore and coal were discovered and the railroads added stops.
Hit The Riverwalk
Pueblo’s Riverwalk along the Arkansas is also a prime place to spend some time during your weekend here. Beautifully built up right along the water, the development offers a mix of shops, restaurants, and various sculptures and other artworks. Take the 1-mile stroll at your leisure, or opt for one of the seasonal riverboat cruises.
Check Out The Creative Corridor
As evidenced on the Riverwalk, the art and culture scene is strong in Pueblo, so much so it has its own Creative Corridor. The area consists of three distinct historic areas in the city, all of which host galleries, museums, street sculptures, live music, live art shows, and concerts. Downtown Main Street, the aforementioned Union Avenue, and the Mesa Junction are all included in the Corridor. Each maintains its own neighborhood flavor but has similar artistic nooks, crannies, and events.
Visit The Rosemount
To truly take a step back into Pueblo’s past, consider a visit to Rosemount Museum. This 24,000-square-foot Victorian mansion masterpiece is crafted from pink volcanic rock and was the home of the affluent Thatcher family. Rosemount served as its residence for 75 years. Now, the palatial home -- which was left to the city in a trust and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- is open for tours and still has most original furnishings, accessories, art, and even window treatments.
See The Lights Of Neon Alley
If you happen to be out and about on South Union Avenue after dark, make it a point to stop by one of the most colorful and interesting light displays east of Vegas. Neon Alley consists of more than 40 vintage neon signs, brightly lit every evening. The alley is part art installation, part blast from the past throwback, and a whole lot of fun. Locals and tourists alike flock here to bask in their light and snap the perfect selfie!
Pay Homage To Heroes
Pueblo is known as a home to heroes, quite literally. It’s the place where four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients grew up. (The Medal of Honor is the highest military award possible for a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.) Heroes Plaza, located outside the Pueblo Convention Center, features bronze sculptures of each recipient. On the Riverwalk, visitors are also welcome at the Center for American Values, where they can peruse the portraits of -- and learn more about -- more than 150 Medal of Honor recipients.
Find Your Wings
Aviation enthusiasts won’t want to miss Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, one of the state's largest military aircraft collections. While the two hangars, filled with vintage aircraft, are well worth the admission price, there are also artifacts and displays highlighting military air history, including uniforms, equipment, and personal affects.
Hike Lake Pueblo
If you’re yearning to get outside and enjoy Mother Nature during your weekend, make the trek just west of town to Lake Pueblo State Park. The lake is actually a reservoir, created by damming the Arkansas River in the mid 1970s to help provide water for agriculture use. Here, you can enjoy miles of hiking trails, prime picnicking spots, and incredible views of Pikes Peak to the north and the Greenhorn Mountains to the southwest.
The Goodnight Barn
To get a real, authentic feel for what life was like in Pueblo during its raucous cowboy days, you’ll want to make time for a quick look-see at the Charles Goodnight Barn. Charles Goodnight came to Colorado in 1868, after stops in Texas and Wyoming trailing cattle. Goodnight is known for inventing the chuck wagon -- designed to feed the drovers easily. Fans of the book or TV show Lonesome Dove also know that the main character, Captain Woodrow Call, was based on the real-life Charles Goodnight. Today, Goodnight’s stone barn is all that remains of his once-bustling ranch, and volunteers are working to restore it. While you can’t go inside, a quick stop here offers a fascinating peek at Pueblo’s old west past.
Best Restaurants In Pueblo
Pueblo’s cuisine scene has always been influenced by south of the border seasonings, especially the green chile. Farmers in and around town grow their own variety, sold at local farmers markets and prepared in Pueblo’s restaurants. Keep an eye out on the menu for the town’s famous Pueblo Slopper, a hamburger smothered with plenty of green chile and topped with cheese and onions. Pueblo’s downtown dive, Gray’s Coors Tavern, has one of the best!
For a more refined, international take, consider either La Forchetta da Massi, known for its Northern Italian-inspired pastas and mains; Mr. Tandoori Urban Bar and Grill serves up delicious curries, kormas, masala, and other Indian staples in a bright dining room. If the weather cooperates, you can also dine al fresco on a large patio.
Colorado is a hub for craft brewing, and Pueblo is no exception. Shamrock Brewing offers the standards -- ales and porters -- along with rotating seasons taps. They also have a terrific pub menu. Walter’s Beer, founded by a German immigrant in the late 1800s, harkens back to its past with traditional pilsners and lagers, uses local ingredients, including chiles, and offers a hard seltzer line. For a brew with a view, head to Brues Alehouse. It’s located in the basement of Pueblo’s old police building and jail, right on the Riverwalk, and has a good variety of beer with a terrific menu to match.
Make sure you save room for dessert and stop by Hopscotch Bakery. Cookies, cupcakes, scones, and a whole host of other sweet treats are made from scratch here, and the care comes through in every delicious bite!
Best Hotels In Pueblo
First things first: There are plenty of mid-range hotel chain options in Pueblo, where you’ll be comfortable and have everything you need to make your long weekend an enjoyable one. But to kick it up a notch, consider a stay at the Station on the Riverwalk. This boutique hotel is also housed in the town’s former jail and is in the same complex as Brues Alehouse. Its rooms are actually the building’s old prison cells, reimagined with luxe in mind. It’s a fun, funky place to hang your hat for the weekend.
If you need more room or would prefer to self-cater, there are also some great carriage houses and even whole-home options in Pueblo available via online home-share sites.
Time your visit right, and you could experience one of two terrific festivals in Pueblo. Each summer, the Colorado State Fair takes place in Pueblo at the fairgrounds. And for fans of the town’s green chilis, plan a Pueblo visit for the third weekend in September for the Chile and Frijoles Throwback Festival.